US Politics

Obama: The Democratic Messiah?

Barack Obama needs to demonstrate that he is not just another false idol.

By Joel S. Hirschhorn
Published January 24, 2007

US Senator Barack Obama

What a wonderful political distraction is Senator Barack Hussein Obama.

Perhaps a good part of his attractiveness is that he is in so many ways the complete opposite of George W. Bush.

Yet what amazes me is how our bipartisan obstacle to true political competition continually creates illusions of change and reform. Thus it keeps a grip on Americans' hope for the future, and preempts public support for more profound political change.

Is Obama just another example of how our corrupt political system ingeniously creates candidates to keep hope alive? Is the self-professed progressive Obama the real thing? Is he something other than a conventional politician?

I have read many of his speeches and other statements. I applaud his upbeat rhetoric, but few policy details are given.

Joseph Sobran opined, "the Democrats are looking for a political messiah, and many of them think they've found one in Illinois's junior senator, Barack Obama. Obama is, without question, a very charming, intelligent, and impressive young man who is, moreover, catnip to the press corps."

Cal Thomas made the good point that many Americans look at presidential candidates as political messiahs. He said Obama "can also play dual roles of messiah figure and one of the Wise Men," and astutely asked, "Have political 'messiah figures' become false gods?"

In truth, none of the current presidential hopefuls have obtained the political messiah mantle as much as Obama has.

Yet I remain skeptical. Is he a true populist? Is he willing to do whatever it takes to become President? In our diseased political system, whatever-it-takes-candidacy produces screw-the-public politics as usual.

Here are some things that would truly impress me about Obama's uniqueness, and would support viewing him as something other than just another opportunistic politician ? albeit with a good looks, anti-Iraq war, and intelligence advantage.

First and foremost, I would be deeply impressed if Obama soon committed to taking campaign contributions only from individuals and only in small amounts, say no greater than $50. If he raises the huge amount of money necessary for a competitive presidential campaign ? say $100 million ? from the usual sources, then he will inevitably become (assuming he is not already) corrupted.

Second, his voting record in the Senate shows a strong allegiance to labor and teacher unions, according to data from Project Vote Smart. These groups can be hugely important sources of big campaign money. I would like to hear Obama explicitly pronounce policy positions that show he is not a lackey of organized labor.

Third, he has supported the views of the Population Connection, better known by its former name: Zero Population Growth. One of its core positions is: "The only acceptable solution to the population problem is through expanding educational, advocacy and service efforts that lower birth rates."

Additionally, for the United States it advocates "efforts to conserve energy and natural resources and improve efficiency, eliminate our 'disposable society' lifestyle, and use the best possible technology to protect the natural and human environment."

I would be impressed if Obama spoke out about the compulsive consumerism hallmarking U.S. culture and solidly supported higher gasoline taxes and stricter vehicle mileage standards to promote less driving and gasoline use. Besides favoring abortion rights and backing the interests of Planned Parenthood, what else does he support to cut global population growth?

Fourth, he has demonstrated little support for the policy goals of the National Taxpayers Union, which lobbies for "the merits of limited government and low taxes," fights corporate welfare and tax advantages for the wealthy, and advocates for a balanced budget amendment to the constitution.

Similarly, his record shows little support for what the Americans for Tax Reform groups advocates. A core position of this group is: "Politicians often run for office saying they won't raise taxes, but then quickly turn their backs on the taxpayer. The idea of the Pledge is simple enough: Make them put their no-new-taxes rhetoric in writing."

So, this is what I would like to hear from Obama: tell us you are not a free-spending liberal who will easily justify raising taxes to increase funding for social programs, and that you will fight for a balanced budget constitutional amendment ? in fact, be the first presidential candidate ever to advocate for an Article V convention of state delegates to consider this and other possible amendments!

Fifth, his views on illegal immigration are very consistent with those of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and opposite to those of groups working to stop the massive influx of illegal immigration. Has he bought into labor union's desire for more members, despite illegals lowering wages for working-class American citizens, just what corporate interests want?

Does he favor any strict measures to stop the invasion of illegal immigrants, including stiffer penalties for illegal employers? What would he do to combat the plight of local governments facing high costs from illegal immigrants?

Obama says "America is a land of big dreamers and big hopes." Then please tell us ? exactly and soon ? what are your big dreams and big hopes for America that you intend to pursue if you become President. Give us details that differentiate you not just from the other presidential candidates, but from all conventional politicians that have lost the trust and confidence of most Americans.

You say "we need the political will." For what exactly? Not just the big, broad goals, but tell us the "how" ? the policy paths that you will fight for to reach lofty goals.

I don't care that he has little government and no executive experience, not if he is willing to speak out boldly with specifics about exactly what he would try to accomplish as President.

Cynic though I am, if he really is the Democratic messiah, then as an American I would be very happy; but I share Cal Thomas' skepticism: "What puzzles me is why so many people put their hopes in politicians, when politicians (and politics) repeatedly let them down."

I want Obama to speak with such clarity that he either earns the messiah label, or makes realists of even his strongest supporters. We do not need another political false idol, from the left or the right.

Joel S. Hirschhorn, Ph.D., is the author of Sprawl Kills - How Blandburbs Steal Your Time, Health, and Money. He can be reached through his website: Check out Joel's new book at


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